Larry Kudlow, meet Larry Kidwell and Robbi Jones.
President Donald Trump’s new chief economic adviser, CNBC analyst Kudlow, could do the country a favor by considering an innovative, outside-the-beltway plan by two financial firms to fix infrastructure and create a high-wage, blue-collar jobs revolution.
Neither Republicans nor Democrats have proposed financially viable ideas to upgrade the country’s neglected roads, bridges, schools, pipelines and power grid.
Democrats would raise taxes; Republicans would hope for the best. Neither plan offers promise for improving our dangerous, nationwide infrastructure graded D+ by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and his caucus propose a $1 trillion infrastructure plan that would reverse course and raise the corporate income tax from 21 percent to 25 percent. It would raise the top individual tax rate from 37 percent to almost 40 percent. It would expand the alternative minimum tax, undo reductions in capital gains taxes, and reduce the estate tax exemption by nearly half.
In return, Schumer and company promise $140 billion for roads; $115 billion for water and sewer upgrades; $80 billion for the power grid; $50 billion to improve schools; $40 billion for broadband enhancement; and lots of jobs. Politically, it is not feasible.
“Repeal all these bonuses, pay raises, new jobs, and new investments? Talk about a nonstarter,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY.
The Trump administration last week pitched a $1.5 trillion infrastructure proposal for federal government to commit $200 billion. The plan depends on states, counties and cities funding at least 80 percent of improvements. Problem is, no one knows where the money will come from.
A new proposal by Nashville-based Kidwell & Company and Houston-based Kipling Jones & Co. provides a stark contrast.
Kidwell & Company President Larry Kidwell and Kipling Jones & Co. President Robbi Jones lack the bullhorn of congressional and White House officials, but recently discussed their plan with national leaders to amplify their message in Washington.
They view working-class jobs a cornerstone of American culture and the country’s economic health. Kidwell put himself through college laying sewer pipes. Jones, an African American woman, broke the glass ceiling while launching and building her firm.
Kidwell and Jones propose raising more than $1 trillion for infrastructure in 2018 by requiring federal agencies to sell loan/lease assets, financed by government, at market value. Those include everything from student loans, to business loans, to grazing leases.
The loans/leases would be correctly totaled, then valued by independent financial experts — such as Kidwell, Jones and others in their field
Original borrowers would get first dibs on paying off the loans to take advantage of the benefits, before government offers the debt to private-sector lenders and asset managers. Banks and other mortgage holders sell loans routinely, and these transactions would not be substantially different.
To understand the government’s potential gain, think about putting millions of people to work immediately, versus waiting to receive loan/lease payments. This would be a win for borrowers and government. Selling loans into the private sector, privatizing receivables, would generate big revenue for shovels in the ground this year.
Combine that money with local, state, or regional funds, and the possibilities surpass any plan proposed by either party.
By selling debt assets, government would forgo the long-term interest. On the flip side, it would slow runaway costs of allowing government property to crumble at the expense of public safety and economic growth. It makes good sense to tap savings and fix a bad roof, before rain and snow destroy the whole house.
The Kidwell-Jones maneuver would remove asset risks from the government’s balance sheet, and potentially lead to the restoration of the AAA credit rating that fell to AA+ in 2011. It would hedge against the potential decline in value of government assets when interest rates rise.
Basing projections on a Georgetown University study of a trillion-dollar infrastructure program, Kidwell and Jones claim the plan could:
Harvard-educated economic historian and professor Brian Domitrovic told The Gazette privatizing loans could rescue government from troubled portfolios, which the private sector could better manage. Domitrovic and Kudlow co-wrote “JFK and the Reagan Revolution,” and Kudlow describes Domitrovic as a “dear friend.”
Grover Norquist, the Harvard-educated president of Americans for Tax Reform, expressed support for the plan.
This is not uncharted terrain. Congressional Democrats successfully ran legislation to sell loans and leases in 1987, ’88 and ’89 to shore up the budget.
Trump understands the potential gain of selling government assets. During his campaign, he tossed around selling off some or all of government’s $128 trillion in mineral rights for oil and gas reserves. He should be open minded to selling receivables.
Kudlow should meet with Kidwell and Jones, review their plan, and try poking holes in it. If it withstands scrutiny, with or without White House tweaks, he should pitch it to the boss. If Kidwell and Jones are correct, this could fund our country’s desperate infrastructure needs without more taxes or debt. It could save lives, boost the economy, and create a revolution of high-wage jobs for American workers who have hopes, dreams and families to support.